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Terry Fox's inspiration lives on

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 23/02) - At age 16, Rob McPhee was working for the summer in a gas station in Ontario along the Trans-Canada Highway when Terry Fox ran right by him.

"We were so enthralled by this instantly recognizable fellow running on one leg that we left the station and ran with him for awhile," recalls McPhee.

McPhee and his co-workers, all in good shape at 16 years old, ran with Fox for about 10 or 15 minutes.

"I guess he got tired of that after a while and turned it up a notch," recalls McPhee. "And he took off and we couldn't keep up with him."

The experience left him with a lasting impression -- what humans are capable of.

"He was such an exceptional character...we often fixate on what the problem is rather than what the incredible possibilities are," says McPhee, who now helps organize Yellowknife's annual Terry Fox run.

McPhee met Terry Fox's mother, Betty Fox, last summer in Yellowknife. "She told stories about what a character he was and how incredibly competitive he was."

At 18 years old and stricken with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer), Fox decided to run across the country to raise money so researchers could find a cure for cancer.

His parents, concerned for his well-being, said, 'No, you're not.' But he was determined, and the resulting Marathon of Hope still inspires millions across the world, including his family.

McPhee has been involved in the Terry Fox Run for about 10 years. Both he and his wife Katherine are chairpersons on the Terry Fox Run committee in Yellowknife. McPhee believes Fox still inspires people because "he chose not to be a victim of adversity. Whatever the challenge that was presented to Terry Fox, he rose to the occasion."

Fox was also an incredible athlete. In 1990, TSN named him athlete of the decade.

During training the year before his run, Fox ran the equivalent of 118 marathons. The next year, he ran the equivalent of 127 more.

"I would challenge you to find anyone else who has run 245 marathons in two- and-a-half-year period like he did," says McPhee. "There aren't many."

Fox was forced to stop running on Sept. 1, 1980 when the cancer spread to his lungs. He died on June 28, 1981 at age 22.